How popular are food trucks these days? Smithsonian Magazine recently declared America to be a “ food truck nation.” According to Mobile-Cuisine, meanwhile, there are currently 4,130 food trucks in the US generating annual total revenue of $1.2 billion — a 12.4 percent increase over the past five years.
The best part? Industry insiders indicate that there’s plenty of room for newcomers on the scene. That’s good news for aspiring food truck owners who are still hoping to get in on the trend.
However, doing so isn’t just a matter of buying a truck and hitting the road with your favorite recipes. Let’s take a closer look at the basics of owning and operating a food truck business of your own.
Food Truck 101
The average food truck costs a whopping $85,000, according to Mobile-Cuisine. But is there any such thing as “average” when it comes to food trucks? After all, they come in all shapes and sizes — some aren’t even trucks, at all.
While some mobile food operations occupy an entire school bus, others are mere trailers pulled behind cars. Factor in used food trucks available for as little as $10,000 and fully-decked out trucks pricing in at hundreds of thousands of dollars, and attempting to understand the initial investment can be overwhelming.
The same goes for restaurant equipment. Can you make do with the basic equipment, or do you need all of the bells and whistles which can spike your costs significantly higher?
The more you know your needs and your options, the more accurately you can identify the vehicle to help you reach your business objectives.
One last thing to consider in terms of the upfront costs of operating a food truck? Fuel.
Depending on the amount of traffic, some food trucks can consume more than 1,000 gallons of propane annually! Be sure to take that into account when setting your budget.
Have a Business Plan
While starting a food truck business can be an amazing opportunity, it can also be a huge risk — particularly without the proper strategies in place for success.
A business plan can help stay you on track in terms of both effectiveness and productivity.
Establishing a business plan can also help you avoid taking on too much. After all, your success will ultimately depend on your ability to deliver a consummate consumer experience — from food to service and beyond.
Controlled growth is the best way to ensure this. In many case, this means thinking more like a startup than like a full-scale restaurant operation.
Maintaining a low overhead can prevent you from blowing through your cash before you get started.
Perhaps you’ve got a mind for food but not for business? Attempting to go it alone can be a recipe for failure.
Instead, seek out trusted advisers and experienced mentors who are knowledgeable about the food truck industry in order to glean invaluable insights into operating the best food truck business possible.
And whether you’re dealing with customers or investors, having an “elevator pitch” is also essential.
Yes, there are many untapped opportunities for food trucks — but there are also many options already out there. What differentiates your food truck from the others in a potentially saturated market? The ability to define and communicate your concept via a brief yet compelling message can help you gain the inside edge.
Also, remember, while running a food truck business is different in many ways than running a restaurant, at the end of the day both rely on the same overarching thing for success: satisfied customers.
Building a consistent and appealing brand, knowing your market, hiring the right people, controlling your costs, serving amazing food, and being a present and inspiring leader are all integral steps in any food service setting.
The Paperwork Process
While you might be getting into the food truck business because you love to cook, have an amazing concept, and are ready for a new and exciting venture, the truth is that the paperwork involved with opening a food truck can be pure drudgery.
Aside from the usual licenses and permits which go along with owning and driving a vehicle, the legal and insurance requirements involved with food truck management are extreme.
You’ll also need to pass local inspection requirements, deal with parking problems, and educate yourself about permit issues for your particular city or location.
Not sure where to begin? Check in with your local chamber of commerce for more information.
Follow Your Bliss
One last thing to keep in mind? Starting a food truck is anything but easy. If you’re just looking to make a quick buck, you’re likely to end up both overworked and under-satisfied.
However, if you’re passionate about food and the restaurant business, these traits can be a serious asset when it comes to weathering challenges along the way.
After all, the world’s happiest, most successful people will agree that the importance of doing what you love — in any industry or aspect of life — cannot be understated.